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Ask the Mechanic: Why does my car overheat?

Driving in the heat of the Summer can be hard on your car's motor. If it starts overheating, you're likely to get stranded and repairs can get down-right costly. Until you can get your vehicle over to a mechanic to take a look, here are a few things to check yourself. That way, you'll have a good idea of where you stand in terms of what may need repair.

Low Coolant Level

The number one reason motors get hot is that they don't have enough coolant in the system. If you're not checking the fluid level once in a while, you're putting your motor at risk. Although the coolant system on your car is a closed system, some still evaporates over time. Keeping the coolant topped off only takes a minute, but can save you hundreds in repairs.

Your car's engine coolant should be checked as often as you check your oil. If you don't drive often, once a month will suffice. If you're always on the road, check it once a week or more, depending on the driving conditions. Your cooling system is under pressure when it's hot, so only check the fluid when the engine is cool. If you're unsure about doing this yourself, ask an auto centre service attendant for assistance.

Cooling Fan or Switch Failure

Most newer vehicles have an electric radiator fan than cools the motor. In older vehicles, coolant fans operate via the motor with a belt and pulley system. In any case, if the fan isn't working at pulling air through the radiator, your car will overheat. If the problem is simply a broken fan belt, it will be an inexpensive repair. On the other end of the spectrum, if the fan motor is at fault, it will be more expensive to have it replaced.

Another possible cause of your car overheating could be as simple as a blown fuse, a bad sensor or switch. The radiator fan motor is controlled by a sensor and switch. If either of these go bad, your fan may only come on intermittently or not come on at all. Your motor is the heart of your vehicle and, if it is overheating for any reason, it's best to let a professional take a look before any major damage can occur.

Plugged Radiator or Stuck Thermostat

Thermostats regulate the coolant and allow it to circulate throughout the system. Should the thermostat get stuck open, coolant moves through the radiator too quickly to cool properly. If the thermostat gets stuck in the closed position, it won't allow any coolant to get through the system at all. Luckily, replacing a bad thermostat is an easy and inexpensive repair.

A plugged radiator may be one of the easiest things to fix. Most times, all it needs is a good flushing and the problem is solved. However, there are also times that making repairs is not an option and a replacement is in order. Although you can try the flushing method yourself, there's no guarantee it will work. A professional mechanic will be able to flush the radiator right, and tell you if a replacement is needed.

If you notice your vehicle overheating, it could be as simple as not having enough coolant or there is a problem with the radiator. You can start looking for the problem yourself and if you run into trouble, contact us, we'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

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